No Looking Back


          Okay, I'll admit that I was really impressed by The Brothers McMullen
  (1995), the first film by Edward Burns. Yes, it had its faults, some of the
  actors were clearly novices (a polite way of saying they were stiff on screen)
  and the production values weren't all that, but I'm from an Irish family and I
  lived on Long Island for a time (but not with my family — that's a story in
  and of itself!). Anyway, I got on the bandwagon and thought, yeah, this was
  a nice film. Not a great film. Not something that was earth- shattering or
  life-changing, but a pleasant, modest effort. Burns got a larger budget and
   some TV stars (Jennifer Aniston, John Mahoney) for his second film,
  
She's the One (1996), but the script did in the film. I especially found
  Cameron Diaz's character (a Wall Street denizen who worked her way
  through college as a hooker, had been engaged to Burns' character and
  as the film begins is now engaging in an affair with his brother) unbelievable,
  never mind Burns' cab driver running off to Europe with a fare and returning
  a newlyweds. Like some other
auteurs, Burns casts himself in leading roles
  and his screen presence can alternate between sweet and amusing to
  downright annoying.

          All this is a lead in to say Burns is back with his third film
  
No Looking Back, a triangular romantic comedy-drama about a waitress,
  her current live-in lover and her old boyfriend, a reprobate mechanic who
  had inexplicably returned to their New York neighborhood. Now if you follow
  the gossip columns (and if not, why not?), this is the film during which
  Lauren Holly, who plays the waitress Claudia, got cozy with star-director
  Burns (playing the mechanic Charlie). If you watch the film closely, you
  can actually see these two falling for one another which adds a layer to
  this film that was missing from Burns' earlier work. In the context of the
  story, it also works, because Claudia is supposed to rekindle her feelings
  for Charlie. Complicating matters is Charlie's best friend and Claudia's
  new boyfriend Michael, well-played by Jon Bon Jovi. (One caveat, we don't
  really learn what Michael does for a living; he wears some sort of delivery
  man uniform, but it's never clearly spelled out.) Of course, the crux of
  the film rests on whether Claudia will opt for marriage and a life with
  Michael or run off with Charlie. I won't give away the ending, but I will
  caution you not to assume anything.

          Moving into more dramatic territory, Burns has written and directed
  a pleasant romantic drama. He is improving as an actor -- the smugness
  that was so prevalent in
She's the One is muted here. Holly shines in
  the central role of Claudia, a meaty role that reminds the audience that
  she is a capable dramatic actress. Jon Bon Jovi, whom I felt was misused
  in
The Leading Man, is also impressive as a working-class guy with limited
  dreams. Burns, however, undermines Bon Jovi's big moment by cutting away
  to reaction shots of Holly. (It's a pet peeve of mine — why directors don't
  trust actors during their big moments. Memo to all aspiring filmmakers,
  if you write a great monologue, have the decency to leave the camera
  on the actor delivering the lines and not cut away to unnecessary shots
  of the listener!) Also contributing fine supporting performances are
  Connie Britton, as Holly's somewhat bitter sister, and Blythe Danner as
  Holly's mother coping with the collapse of her marriage. A special note
  of mention to the soundtrack which uses a number of Bruce Springsteen
  songs effectively as counterpoint to the on screen action.


                                  Rating:                 B-
                                  MPAA Rating:        R for language
                                  Running time:       96 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.